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serene end to a majestic beginning

Sunlight streamed into the room. Light pierced my eyes, forcing the lids to open in appreciation of the resplendent beauty of the golden sand, and beyond---the enigmatic sea stretching to the horizon. The blurred vision in my sleepy eyes gradually evaporated. I sat up and looked through the French windowpanes next to my bed. I flung them open and the soft warm breeze flowed in, ruffling my hair. The picturesque scene between the walls became clearer. It seemed like a 3-dimensional painting adorned with a blend of the best hues.

The light haze blanketing the sea brought in a salty, piscine smell. My mind was already afloat on this beautiful cloud of vision, but the pain on my left shoulder, from the ill-designed mattress, brought me back to reality. However the discomfort did not could not stop the urge to walk to the golden beach beyond the bounds of the small cottage. As I walked out I left the door ajar and the wind swept into the room, brought forth the mingled aroma of a fresh Spring morning. I stepped over the threshold and I was on the brink of a completely different world: A world where, there was so much to explore, so much to absorb and appreciate. Cox's BazaarA serene end to a majestic beginning.

A few steps away from the lodge and I was greeted by a breeze that left my hair dishevelled. The sand tickled my feet, seeping into the space between my toes, and the sun blazed overhead. I made my way to the rolling waves, lapping the sand and leaving its traces, resolute not to be forgotten. With every step the sand felt damper. Shells gathered round my feet and the water seeped through my pores to cleanse them of all the perspiration. The breeze made me feel so light, so warm and comfortable. The gentle blue sky was sprayed with clouds of indecipherable patterns. Palm trees, adorned with the harmonious blend of green and brown stood in contrast, leaning towards the sea. Even the sun, stunned by the serene beauty of the place, forgot its own glaring heat and blessed it with its gentle rays. The golden sand, with sporadic specks of glittering silver, added to the subtle hues of the beach. I stood, gazing at the rolling waves, convinced that there was so much more…

As I stood there, oblivious to the passage of time, suddenly everything turned dark and gloomy. The sea changed its colour to a darker shade of blue-green. The sand looked sullen, like gold, thickly coated with dust. The specks of silver could no longer be seen. Grey clouds gathered overhead, forming a shadow of dejection. The wind was no longer the warm soft breeze. It hit my bones, aggravating the pain on my left shoulder. The sand blew with the wind and etched my eyes. Raindrops drenched my locks as they poured. It was time to return. I looked at the rolling waves, the sand, the trees and the clouds before turning back and made way to the cottage. A closely- knitted series of buildings, protruding oddly from the surface of the earth, eclipsed the majestic foothills in the background. Clothes hung in the little, claustrophobic balconies, resembling unsightly festoons of variegated colours and shapes. Strings of filth dangled from the open windows like untidy streamers. The sight was repulsive and nauseating. The whole cluster of human habitation was alien in the realm of nature. A few away from the sea, I turned to look at the enchanting beauty of nature for one last time. I wondered whether it would be there the next time I looked back. I gazed up at the clouds, looking for the silver lining, but it simply wasn't there.

By Nafisa Naomi

Book review
Surely you must be joking, Mr Feynman!

I have always had a huge love-hate relationship with Physics. I mean, I enjoy lying on my back and staring at the ceiling fan and wondering why it rotates in one direction and not the other. I enjoy playing with balance and circular motions, and centre of gravity. Sometimes I'll even sit and wonder about stuff like black holes and the speed of light and all that stuff. It's when I have to sit down with the math and memorize the laws that I rebel and run off. Don't ask me my A-level scores, please.

Physics was actually the last thing on my mind when an old friend lent me this book by this Nobel Prize winning physicist, and I wasn't sure how I'd like it.

It turned out to be a pretty interesting. Feynman was totally opposite to what I'd expected a science nerd to be like. A quirky, rebellious prankster with an eye for the ladies, he brings the same attitude to his work as he maintains in life. The book is a loose autobiography of sorts, which was actually based on taped conversations between Feynman and a friend.

The author talks about his early experiments as a child, his work on the atom bomb during World War II, his pranks, his stint as a musician in Brazil, and his adventures at topless bars in Vegas. Scientific principles are loosely woven into the fabric of his anecdotes. It's amazing how he relates one thing to another. As the New York Times Book Review says, “Proves once again that it is possible to laugh out loud and scratch your head at the same time.”

What I particularly agreed with was Dick Feynman's views on how science is taught. He talked about students who were able to reel off a bunch of laws and theorems, and work out a bunch of mathematical problems, but couldn't apply the concepts to real life. Considering the book was published in 1985, things haven't changed much since, at least if we're talking about teaching science at the school level.

This is definitely an autobiography with a difference, so do check it out!

By Sabrina F Ahmad


EVERY crowd is composed of people who amaze us. Every being has an amazing spark to him/her. Some people continue to amaze us even after they're gone. These people are rare and not all of us get to know them. But Anisul Hoque has ensured that we get to know Safia Begum. 'Maa' a true story of the brave mother of Shahid Azad.

Safia Begum was the wife of one of the richest businessmen during the days of East Pakistan. They lived in a huge five-storey mansion, with innumerable rooms and large lawns with pond, ducks and deer. Safia Begum dominated the house, taking care of every small detail in it. She had never turned her back to a needy relative, a hungry traveller or just about anyone who came at her doorstep for help. Azad was born and brought up in this luxury. Being the only child, he was pampered and spoilt to many extents, but Safia Begum ensured that Azad had the right principles in him.

The first insight that readers get of Safia Begum's strength of mind is when she doesn't accept her husband's second marriage. She leaves behind the realm of luxury to embrace a life of poverty. Azad chooses to follow his mother and shoulders the hardships of their new life. Despite their financial crisis, she encouraged Azad to go to continue with his education and pays no heed to her husband's countless threats and pleadings to make them return.

Azad eventually went to a university in West Pakistan, but returned after a while knowing that his mother had suddenly fallen sick. Hence, he decided to stay in East Pakistan with his mother and was admitted to Dhaka University. At about the same time, the liberation war broke out. Many of his classmates joined muktibahani. Azad wanted to join too, but the thought that his mother would be left destitute without him held him back. However he and his mother both aided freedom fighters in every way possible giving them shelter, feeding them, sending supplies, storing weapons. In the process, he gets more and more involved in the war, even accompanying them on certain operations.

As harder times fall upon Safia Begum, and she has to face heartbreaking misery she had never lost her strength of mind and character. What holds the readers spellbound is how she handles the situation and keeps her family together during the days when Azad was captured, and how she tries her utmost to help him. She spoke to him once and told him never to snitch on any of his friends. He wanted to eat rice and she brought some for him the next day but she never saw him again and she never touched one grain of rice since then.

The book is based on a true story, but is a blend of fact and fiction. The author narrated true events as much as possible, but used his imagination beautifully to build up the atmosphere of those times. A worthwhile read and a captivating walk down the days of our Liberation War of 1971 'Maa' is available at any local bookstore for Tk.200.

Special thanks to my friend, Tushmit for lending such an amazing book to me. I wouldn't have known what I was missing if I hadn't read this.

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Washing hands reduces moral taint

Cleanliness is next to godliness; the Mandarin term for a thief is "a pair of dirty hands"; and, perhaps most famously, Lady Macbeth desperately attempts to wash away a spot of blood after murdering Duncan. Behavioral researchers Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto and Katie Liljenquist at Northwestern University explored this so-called "Macbeth effect" in a series of experiments with undergraduates. The research revealed that, unconsciously at least, you can wash away your sins.

In the first study, 60 Northwestern students were isolated and asked to describe either an ethical or unethical action they had undertaken in their lives. Following this exercise, they were presented with a series of six word fragments, three of which--W_ _ H, for example--could be completed in a cleansing way (WASH) or an unrelated way (WISH). Those who had just spent time recalling an unethical deed were more likely to produce a cleansing word.

In another study, 27 subjects hand copied either an ethical or unethical story. In the ethical version a lawyer helps his colleague, whereas in the unethical version the lawyer sabotages him. Then the students rated products, including cleansing ones such as soap or toothpaste. As expected, the students who had copied the unethical story rated the cleansing products significantly more highly than their “ethical” peers.

Although these studies seemed to show that moral stains produce a desire for physical cleanliness, Zhong and Liljenquist wondered whether such a need to be clean could actually drive behavior. After asking 45 more students to recall an unethical behavior from their past, the researchers offered 22 of them a sanitary wipe while leaving the rest of their peers in an "unclean" state. They then asked for unpaid volunteers to aid a desperate graduate student with another study: 74 percent of those in the unclean state offered their help versus only 41 percent of those who had cleaned themselves, according to results published in the September 8 issue of Science. "Washing hands can reduce physical disgust but it can also reduce moral emotions," Zhong says.

Having discovered this unconscious association, Zhong and his colleagues hope to explore the roots of this link--whether in culture, language or the psyche--as well as its implications. Perhaps if Macbeth had helped his Lady keep a clean home, they might not have engaged in such dirty deeds.

By David Biello
Source: ScientificAmerican.com


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